A symphony
of timeless motoring

It’s the 90th anniversary of one of Europe’s leading classic car events – the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este on the shores of Lake Como in Italy – and this year’s theme pays tribute to a much-loved aspect of vintage motors… the “music” of their engines

Home road A symphony
of timeless motoring
A symphony
of timeless motoring

Call it a purr, a hum, a throb or a roar, vintage car engines have a sound all their own. So classic car enthusiasts will be happy with the title of this year’s Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este: the Symphony of Engines.

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Some 50 vintage cars will produce their own unique “music” as they parade and compete against the backdrop of one of the world’s leading hotels – the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este – and the 19th-century Villa Erba at Cernobbio, with Pirelli as gold sponsor. On the last weekend of May – 24th to 26th – the cars, spanning the 1920s to the 1980s and impeccably maintained and restored, will compete for the BMW Group Trophy to decide the Best in Show. This will be chosen by a panel of judges, chaired by automobile designer Lorenzo Ramacciotti, according to the beauty and uniqueness of the cars, as well as the passion and dedication of the drivers. The favourite car chosen by the public, on the other hand, will win the Coppa d’Oro Villa d’Este. 

Voted Best Hotel in the World by Forbes in 2009, Villa d’Este’s origins go back to the 1560s when it was built as the residence of Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio to designs by the architect Pellegrino Tibaldi. After a succession of illustrious owners, including Princess Caroline of Brunswick, estranged wife of the UK’s King George IV, it became a luxury hotel in 1873, the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este. 

In 1929 its gardens first hosted the Coppa d’Oro Villa d’Este, the Concorso Internazionale d’Eleganza for historic vehicles, immediately attracting acclaim for the elegance and quality of the setting and the cars taking part. It soon becoming a leading alternative to other similar events in Monte Carlo and Paris.

Suspended during the Second World War, the motor show resumed in 1995 as a historic re-enactment and then definitively took off in the years that followed, thanks to the involvement of the BMW Group. Over its 90 years winners have ranged from the luxurious Isotta Franchini Tipo 8A of 1929 – the world’s first mass-produced car with a straight-eight cylinder engine – to the custom-built Alfa Romeo 33/2 Stradale and Ferrari 335 Sport in 2018. This year’s Concorso participants will be presented according to eight classes:

• Goodbye Roaring Twenties: the birth of the Concorso
• Fast forward: a quarter-century of progress
• Small and perfectly formed: the coachbuilder’s art in miniature
• A new dawn: into the rock ’n’ roll era
• Swinging Sixties: the sky’s the limit
• Baby You Can Drive My Car: the vehicles of music stars
• Speeding against the clock: endurance-racing legends
• Dare to dream: concepts that rocked the motoring world.

As well as displaying vintage gems, the Concorso looks to the future. Since 2002, it has celebrated the concept car. Around a dozen models and prototypes will be displayed in the elegant gardens of both Villa d’Este and Villa Erba, some of which make their debut on the shores of Lake Como. Just as in the 1930s, when car builders visited the Concorso to show off their latest and most refined creations, today’s car manufacturers attend to give motoring enthusiasts a glimpse into the future.

Staying true to the atmosphere of restrained and refined elegance, the event will also devote space to the world of motorcycles, with six classes for historic motorcycles:

• Still in action: motorcycles more than 100 years old
• Sound and style: the new motorcycles of 1929
• Promenade Percy: men’s sporting fashion
• 50 years ago: trendsetters for future success
• Two-wheeled guards: to protect and to serve
• Concept bikes: new designs and prototypes by manufacturers and independents.

The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este remains an appointment not to be missed for motoring enthusiasts. The weekend’s many events will include the customary auction of around 70 vintage cars by RM Sotheby’s. And wherever visitors find themselves throughout the weekend, it’s likely they will never be far from the “Symphony of Engines”.

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